08/07/2003 11:00PM

Top Euros crash the Million


CHICAGO - In trainer Neil Drysdale's shed row lives Storming Home, the horse many consider the best turf runner in the United States. Storming Home paid 30 cents on the dollar when he won the Grade 1 Whittingham on June 14 at Hollywood Park. Drysdale has aimed him for the Arlington Million ever since.

Thursday, Drysdale had this perspective on Storming Home's push toward next Saturday's Million: "You need to talk to Saeed bin Suroor."

That is the chief trainer for Godolphin Racing, and though Drysdale was cracking wry, he nailed the biggest news in this year's International Festival of Racing: Sulamani is coming to Chicago.

Based in England with bin Suroor, Sulamani is the best European ever to invade for the Million. Last year he easily won the French Derby, finished second of 16 in the Arc de Triomphe, and in late fall was purchased from the Niarchos family by Godolphin. In three 2003 races, Sulamani has won just once, but his second to the star colt Alamshar late last month in the Group 1 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes confirmed Sulamani's rank as one of the best turf horses anywhere.

"We gave him an easy program in March and April," said Simon Crisford, Godolphin's spokesman. "The major races for him are in the second half of the year. The Arlington Million slots into his program well."

Sulamani towers over an unusually large contingent of eight Europeans likely to come for the Million. They are expected to join five U.S. horses when Million pre-entries are finalized by midnight Friday.

Europeans also are expected for the International Festival's other two Grade 1's, the Beverly D. and the Secretariat, though Walzerkoenigin is the lone overseas starter in the Beverly D. She also is the first European horse on the grounds, as the flow of international flights began in earnest Friday. Perhaps four or five Europeans will run in the Secretariat, including Evolving Tactics, who shipped here from Ireland and back home again, winning the American Derby on July 20 at Arlington.

Walzerkoenigin, a German horse, has plenty of class, but the Americans are strong in the Beverly D. Trainer Christophe Clement has two for the race, including the Diana Handicap winner Voodoo Dancer, who could be favored, and Dress to Thrill.

"They've both been training very well," Clement said. "Dress to Thrill was not ready when she was defeated in California early this year, and her next race was better. She's improved, and her last work was spectacular. Voodoo Dancer is a funny horse. The more I do, the more she likes it. She's not tall, but she's a very strong horse, powerful."

Bobby Frankel will have a Beverly D. starter, but which one remains uncertain. Frankel's top choice is Zenda, who would have to be supplemented at a cost of $20,000. Frankel told Arlington officials this week that it was possible Zenda would be supplemented. Other top contenders are Dublino and Owsley.

The Secretariat will have 12 to 14 starters, none of whom stands out. Lismore Knight, who won the Arlington Classic and skipped the American Derby, returns for trainer Todd Pletcher.

Without question, however, the Million is shaping up as a terrific race, with Sulamani at its head. In the 20 previous editions of the Million, 71 foreign horses have participated, but rarely have they been among the best horses in Europe. They have been more along the lines of Godolphin's Slickly, who finished seventh here in 2000.

"It wouldn't be appropriate to compare him to Sulamani," Crisford said. "On his day, Slickly was a top horse, but Sulamani is completely different. His form is far superior."

But Sulamani will run into a superior group of North Americans. Storming Home won the Group 1 Champion Stakes last summer at Newmarket, and he is unbeaten in his two starts in this country.

"He's doing quite well," Drysdale said. "He's on target."

Add to the mix the razor-sharp Perfect Drift, The Tin Man, Perfect Soul, and Honor in War, and this year's Million starts to look like a classic.

Nine in Sunday feature

Sunday's feature here is on a much different scale: Nine horses were entered in a $45,000 overnight handicap. For fillies and mares at nine furlongs on dirt, the race drew, from the rail out, To the Queen, Barney's Mistress, Sweetwater Promise, Spirited Maiden, Curious Conundrum, Uluvitunoit, Golden Trevally, Ravish Me, and Sharky's Review.

In from Kentucky for the Bill Mott barn, To the Queen stretches out after a sprint allowance race, her first start since last winter.

Television racing show debuts

A weekly horse racing preview and magazine show, "Horsin' Around TV," was scheduled to make its debut Saturday on Fox Sports Net Chicago. The show, scheduled to include features and analysis on the Chicago racing product, as well as a national perspective, will air for 14 consecutive weeks at 10:30 a.m. Central.

The show's host and driving force is Joe Kristufek, who has been pushing hard to bring Chicago racing to a wider audience. Kristufek, a public handicapper and turf writer, has a deep knowledge of the local circuit and gained national exposure as a host at The Racing Network, now defunct.

Kristufek hopes the show will lure racetrack regulars while appealing to a broader sports audience.